When it comes Texas football, Orangebloods.com — the Rivals.com site covering the Longhorns — has built a reputation for knowing what’s what. Last week the site reported that Mack Brown was a goner. Despite a bumpy ride, by week’s end the longtime Texas coach was indeed announcing his retirement.
So when it comes to that school’s wish list of replacements, where better to turn than back to Orangebloods? (Paywall warning.) We’ll not get into their whys and hows, but their list of possible Texas coaches includes:
Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers
Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
Urban Meyer, Ohio State
Les Miles, LSU
David Shaw, Stanford
John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Art Briles, Baylor
Will Muschamp, Florida
Charlie Strong, Louisville
James Franklin, Vanderbilt
Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers
Gary Patterson, TCU
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
That’s a long list that doesn’t include Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, who many believe would be a top choice (strengthening Texas while hurting a Big 12 rival).
You’ll note that there are four SEC coaches on that list and we’ll tackle each one below.
Les Miles -- Miles didn’t leave the Bayou for his alma mater’s open spot at Michigan. So it’s hard to picture him pulling up stakes now. Unless. Unless he’s tired of watching division rivals Alabama and Auburn play in the BCS Championship Game every year. Either UA or AU has been in every title game since 2009. Toss in Florida in 2008 and the last six BCS title bouts have included a permanent opponent on LSU’s schedule. A 10-team Big 12 with no conference championship game should — should — provide an easier path to next year’s first-ever College Football Playoff. We think Miles should be Option #1 on Texas’ list. If he can consistently compete at or near the top of the SEC, he’d be able to do the same in the Big 12 with the Lone Star State (and Louisiana) as his recruiting base. This one’s viable enough to earn Miles a new contract from LSU.
Gus Malzahn — We tossed this one out ourselves a few weeks ago. Then a report mysteriously surfaced stating that Auburn’s coach had told friends that the Longhorn job was his “dream job.” A day or two later Malzahn had a new, richer deal on the Plains. So might he jump? His resume is dotted with quickie stops. And, as we said with Miles, it’s easier to win the Big 12 than it is to win the SEC West. As good as the Tigers have been this year — and they’re very, very good — they still needed a tipped Hail Mary and a once-in-a-lifetime 109-yard missed field goal return to even reach the SEC Championship Game. AU fans will take that as an insult. It’s not. It’s just proof that winning the West is tough.
James Franklin — What more can the man do at Vanderbilt? He’s taken the Commodores to three bowl games in three years and won 17 games combined the last two. The school had only been to four bowl games in its history prior to Franklin and it hadn’t won 17 in a two-season stretch since the 1920s. But while Franklin’s name was kicked around in the media when Southern Cal and Washington had openings, there have been no serious approaches. We believe there are three reasons for that and Texas would have to get over all of them as well. First, fans of big schools don’t want to hire guys from schools like Vanderbilt. Steve Spurrier was a home run hire from Duke, but the Gary Barnetts (Northwestern to Colorado), Ty Willinghams (Stanford to Notre Dame and then Washington) and Gerry DiNardos (Vandy to LSU) of the world have given football snobs reason to doubt the guys from high-academics schools. Second, Franklin has just two wins over teams with winning records the last two seasons. AD Steve Patterson would have to overlook that. Third — and we keep saying this — the rape case at VU remains an open sore. We don’t believe Franklin or his staff helped players cover up the crime, but as long as lawyers are asking for the text messages sent between players and coaches, any good AD would have to consider the potential ramifications if some shoe did surprising drop. Good news, Dore fans, we don’t think Franklin will top Texas’ list.
Will Muschamp — Texas wouldn’t have to pay his moving expenses. Gator fans would be happy to chip in if they could send Coach Boom back to the school where he was once coach-in-waiting. The man did win 11 games in the SEC a year ago. But it’s very hard to imagine Longhorn boosters making a run at a guy that another school’s fans would love to run off.
Might there be any other SEC surprises under Texas’ Christmas tree this year? Mark Richt is a Georgia lifer. Kevin Sumlin just inked a new deal and the whole A&M-to-Texas thing would just give all involved the willies. Hugh Freeze has done well in two years at Ole Miss, but he’s a deep fallback candidate at best. Spurrier’s 68-years-old (though at this point he’d probably be the surest bet on the list outside of Nick Saban, who’s unavailable). Gary Pinkel’s good, but Texas wouldn’t go there.
If thing went haywire enough, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart might have his name tossed into the mix, but it’s hard to imagine Texas going down the assistant path.
So if we at MrSEC.com were bettin’ men, we’d view Miles as the favorite from the SEC with Malzahn right behind him. But we don’t see Texas landing either SEC man.